Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Apart from the three plays, two epic poems and two lyric poems are commonly ascribed to Klidsa. Most critics agree that the lyrics—Ṛtusaṃhra (c. 75 b.c.e. or c. 365 c.e.; English translation, 1867) and Meghadta (c. 65 b.c.e. or c. 375 c.e.; The Cloud Messenger, 1813)—are earlier compositions, and the epics—Kumrasambhava (c. 60 b.c.e. or c. 380 c.e.; The Birth of the War-God, 1879) and Raghuvaṃa (c. 50 b.c.e. or c. 390 c.e.; The Dynasty of Raghu, 1872-1895)—appear to be contemporaneous with the plays, among Klidsa’s later work. In addition, many scholars over the years have attributed numerous pieces of doubtful authenticity to Klidsa. These apocrypha span the literary gamut from religious hymns to astrological treatises to erotic verses, but their authorship remains questionable on stylistic grounds.

As in the plays, love is the unifying passion in the lyric poems of Klidsa. Ṛtusaṃhra paints in its six cantos the six Indian seasons as perceived through the eyes of one in love. The depiction of lovers in union in that poem is countered by the theme of lovers separated in The Cloud Messenger, which has as its central metaphor one of the most charming romantic conceits of all literature: a cloud personified as the go-between carrying a message from lover to beloved, who pine away for each other, parted by vast distances. The epics, however, are of a somewhat different temper. The Birth of the War-God treats the mythological union of iva, the Hindu god of destruction, and Prvat, his consort, representing the principles of Good and Beauty respectively. Their son Kumra, the god of war, symbolizes the power born to crush evil in the world. The elaborate, quasihistorical The Dynasty of Raghu presents the ideal virtues of legendary Indian kings and heroes, perhaps as an implicit guide to rulers of Klidsa’s own time. Despite their more conventional elevated approach, both epics are infused with Klidsa’s characteristic poetic style.